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10 Professional Outfit Essentials For Women

10 Professional Outfit Essentials For Women

I was in a panic, one hour before my interview and I had nothing to wear. Unless leggings and baggy shirts counted, I was never going to get hired. In my defense, the employer had called me only hours after filling out my application and wanted an interview that night. I was just about to reschedule when my roommate gave me a blouse to borrow, and I found a pair of black slacks shoved deep into the crevices of my closet. I ended up getting the job but I realized my wardrobe was not equipped for the work environment. I was on a budget, so I set out to find pieces of neutral colors that could be used in multiple ways. These are the pieces that got my wardrobe started:

1. Paper-bag pants

While their name sounds less than appealing, this type of work pant is perfect for dressing up your typical slacks. They are similar to that of a casual work pant. They can be high-wasted or mid-rise. Plus, they are perfect for elevating an outfit from casual to professional; forming into a ruffled, wavy pattern at the top, similar to that of its namesake–a paper bag. Some are even tightened with a cloth belt that wraps around the top, which can be tied into a stylish bow. They come in many different colors and often in the same material of a normal dress pant. Style it with a button-up or a plain V-neck to complete the look. A cute pair can be found at Fashion Nova for a reasonable price here:

2. Pencil Skirts

Every woman needs a good pencil skirt. Most of the time, when people think of business, they think of the suit, button-up, and plain slacks. To add a more feminine touch, replace the slacks with a pencil skirt. A modest length is a skirt of knee-length or longer. Plus, they add a classier vibe to your appearance. Pair it with a nice blouse or button-up shirt. I recommend choosing a neutral color such as grey, white, black, or nude, to make it more of a staple piece in your wardrobe. Kohl’s has cute professional wear that is always on sale (click on the picture below): 


3. Blazer

Is it just me or does throwing on a blazer automatically make someone look more intelligent? Maybe it’s just me, but nevertheless, it does inherently bring a look together as the perfect final touch. Also, some tops may not be appropriate, such as spaghetti-strap tank tops, which could be covered and made more elegant. These can get expensive but here is a simple white one you can pair with anything: 


4. Cardigan

For those casual days in the office, a cardigan can be the ideal cover-up instead of a blazer. Not only are they more comfortable, but they are still simple enough to be styled with almost any outfit. While they may not be best used for business professional attire, they are still a center-piece for your wardrobe, especially during the colder months. H&M can be underrated but their styles are simple and perfect for the office, click here to get the look: 

5. Flats 

I think I speak for all of us women when I say that heels are painful, and sometimes a nice flat is all we really want. Heels are not a necessity for the office. Any type of professional, close-toed shoe is perfect for office wear. A pair of black or brown flats could be a substitute for those days you want to dress down and feel more comfortable in your work attire. The best part is that they look no less appropriate or formal than a pair of heels. Be sure to get a pair of your own here:


6. Simple dress

What’s better than not having to pick out your whole outfit for the day, and instead have it all wrapped up in one piece? I don’t know about you, but my bed is covered in rejected outfits from this morning, so a dress is a perfect solution. There are many types of dresses and it is important to know what is and is not acceptable in a business/ office setting. Dresses that have spaghetti straps, are below knee-length and show large areas of the back are better for a cocktail hour rather than your nine to five jobs. Ideally, dresses that are sleek, at or after knee-length, and cover most of the shoulder or neck are ideal for business and casual office wear. Body-con dresses are not a no-no; however, they should be chosen with a critical eye. Is it too tight? Would it be better for a night out? Is it provocative? Other types of appropriate dresses would be wrap dresses, A-line dresses, and shirt dresses (these often have buttons going down the front). Nordstrom Rack has plenty of work dresses on sale right now: 


7. Heels

For all of my heel-loving ladies, this one is for you. After all, it feels so good to dress up on occasion. Heels that are best for office wear would be those of modest height, around two to three inches tall, close-toed (ideally), and of neutral color. This is a staple piece so the neutral color is going to be essential to ensuring you can pair them with multiple outfits. Try on several different heels, walk around in them, could you imagine wearing them for hours at a time? Some affordable styles can be found at Nordstrom, follow the link below:

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8. Subtle pieces of jewelry

Jewelry is the perfect finishing touch for your outfit of the day. This can dress up an outfit further or simply accentuate it. Either way, large, dazzling pieces are not necessary for your look. Hoop, pearl, and petit diamond (or cubic zirconia) earrings can add a small detail to boost your wardrobe to the next level. Of course, this not necessary; but for those who enjoy choosing jewelry for their outfits each day, subtle pieces that can be worn with several outfits would be best. Etsy is the perfect place to find jewelry made by independent jewelers at a decent price: 

9. Blouses

While buttons ups are a simple, delicate top for business attire, a blouse can be perfect for changing things up and adding some color and patterns to your life. They are more appropriate for business casual than professional due to their unique, flexible fabrics, designs, and patterns. Adding a couple of these to your wardrobe is perfect for adding some defining features to the simplistic wardrobe step up by this article. I highly recommend Shein for cheap blouses, just make sure to read the reviews for fitting:


10. Button-ups

Speaking of button-ups, they really are essential. They can be dressed up or down with a skirt or pants; they are a flexible item of clothing, lending themselves to any type of profession. Deciding if you should have more button-ups or blouses is about your preferences but also the type of attire expected of you in your workspace. Are you expected to be business casual or business professional? The earlier would lend itself to more lenient wear, like the blouses, while the latter would be better suited by button-ups. To find cute tops, Forever21 will always be a go-to: 


Whatever you choose, use these pieces as starting points to create your own unique style. It can be difficult to navigate the proper attire for prospective jobs, but knowing the basics can give you ideas for whole outfits and styles better suiting to you as an individual. Good luck with your jobs and internships, with this wardrobe, they’re sure to love you–and ask you where you bought it. 

Featured image source: Pinterest